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NTT IndyCar Series: Team Penske Wins With Will Power's Strong Indy Road Course Performance

Photo Credit: Walt Kuhn/IndyCar


Six days after an unforgettable first street course race won by Marcus Ericsson, NTT IndyCar Series drivers and teams return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time since May’s 500-mile race. A race held in conjunction with the NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series race weekend on the 2.439-mile road course connected to the famous oval track, IndyCar presented the most familiar sight having competed on the exact circuit 10 times before the 85-lap Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix.

Containing the healthy field of 28 open wheel cars that included 2021 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and RC Enerson driving for the #75 Top Gun Racing team, the Indianapolis road race also featured the debut of Danish driver Christian Lundgaard competing in the third car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Pato O’Ward driving the #5 Arrow McLaren SP car took the pole position on Friday with a 1-minute, 10.7147-second fastest lap triumphing narrowly with a margin of just 0.0067 seconds over Will Power. Romain Grosjean, Colton Herta and Christian Lundgaard rounded out the top five in the Firestone Fast 12 time trial session. The top five starters of the recording best times in qualifying within a range of half a second hinted strongly at the possibility that the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix would require a near-flawless effort from any of the drivers to be in contention for Saturday’s race win.

With the advantage of the pole, Pato O’Ward led through the opening 15 laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course relinquishing the position when he made his first pit stop. During the pit stop cycle, Christian Lundgaard led two laps in his first IndyCar Series event before the rookie brought his #45 car to the attention of this pit crew. Lundgaard who complete the full distance of his first outing in IndyCar resulting in a respectable 12th place finish.

Photo Credit: Doug Matthews/IndyCar

After Simon Pagenaud pitted after briefly leading, Penske Racing’s Will Power took possession of the race’s top spot on the 21st lap. The #12 Verizon 5G-sponsored Dallara-Chevrolet stretched out a sizable advantage over Colton Herta’s Andretti Autosport car through the middle segment of the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. Also advancing through the first pit stop was Alexander Rossi who picked up three positions to run in 5th place and Graham Rahal climbing from 11th to 8th place at the same time Power inherited the lead.

By lap 47, Will Power’s gap on second place had grown to 9.5395 seconds but the Australian’s greatest challenge came from lapped traffic and namely James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian’s tenacious fight to remain on the lead lap contributed to the #12 car’s interval on second place shrank to 4.5462 seconds by lap 60. With Hinchcliffe’s teammate Colton Herta running in the position behind Power, it was widely insinuated that the #29 car’s aggressiveness was intended to reduce the leader’s gap. However, the lead of Will Power would ultimately be reduced on lap 68 after the race’s first full-course caution flew.

The leader of the NTT IndyCar Series drivers’ points entering the race weekend at the Indy road course, Alex Palou met misfortune due to a mechanical problem with his #10 Dallara-Honda machine causing the Spanish driver to come to rest at turn 6. Palou would leave Indianapolis maintaining the top position in the standings but saw his lead reduced over his 2021 championship rivals. A restart on lap 71 was followed by six-lap green flag stint before the race’s second and final yellow flag flew when Scott McLaughlin’s #3 car tagged the #21 machine driven by Rinus VeeKay in turn 7. McLaughlin would receive a penalty for avoidable contact by IndyCar with the New Zealander ultimately finishing 23rd.

Photo Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

With a seven-lap sprint to the chequered flag, Will Power built up a small but comfortable gap to win the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The 38th career NTT IndyCar Series victory for the Australian served as a most-needed confidence boost following a 2021 campaign that had only included two podium results prior. The win is also Power’s first since the second race at IndyCar Harvest GP last October and is only the second for the whole Team Penske stable this season. Team owner and Indianapolis Motor Speedway track owner Roger Penske would have an excellent Saturday with Austin Cindric claiming the win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series that followed the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix.

With a battle for second place late in the Indianapolis road race, Romain Grosjean prevailed for the runner-up spot at the finish line over Colton Herta late despite being out of push-to-pass. Grosjean’s two podium results in his young IndyCar Series career have both been scored at the Indy road course.

Photo Credit: Barry Cantrell/Honda

Still stinging from a late-race mistake at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, Colton Herta found some relief in taking third place at Indy with the #26 Gainbridge-sponsored race car for Andretti Autosport. Alexander Rossi also gave the Michael Andretti-owned race organization a reason to be pleased at the end of the 85-lap road race crossing the finish line in fourth. Pato O’Ward settled for fifth place after starting the event on pole but he narrowed the gap in the season-long point standings trailing Alex Palou by just 21 points with four races remaining in the season.

In order, sixth to tenth place finishers at the 2021 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix is Jack Harvey, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson and Takuma Sato.


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